Six Low-Noise, Performance-Oriented Cases, Tested

Conclusion

If you asked us which "quiet PC” case we’d buy following today’s test, our answer would technically have to be "none of them." But that’s only because the case that won this comparison is not explicitly marketed as a quiet PC component. Deliberately aimed at gamers, the SilverStone Raven RV02-E gets its noise-reducing features via alternative fan placement that coincidentally blocks-in noise at the same time. SilveStone even supplies moderately-noisy fans to bolster the case’s gaming potential, yet wisely adds a set of fan-speed selectors to reduce its noise from a dull roar to an acceptable hum. It’s this low-speed configuration that tops our charts.

Yet, as a gaming case, the Raven 2 Evolution may not fulfill the aesthetic or storage needs of some computing professionals. For that we have the second-place case, Fractal Design’s Define XL. It really surprises us that this server-sized part capable of holding ten hard drives and four optical drives is simultaneously more than 10% less expensive than SilverStone’s consumer-oriented part.

Antec offers the best value, but only if we subtract the price of its included power supply from the total cost of the Sonata IV. In other words, Antec’s Sonata IV provides the best value to buyers who also want a Neo ECO 620C power supply. Buyers who don’t want Antec’s power supply might prefer NZXT’s sub-$100 price tag.

Lian Li’s PC-B25S achieves middle-of-the-road thermal and noise results, in spite of the company’s application of acoustic foam to the interior side of nearly every exterior panel. Perhaps the foam was too thin, or perhaps it was simply the wrong material for the task, but we would have liked to see a case this attractive place higher on our performance charts. This particular chassis is so pleasing to the eye that we might even use it in one of our office PCs—along with specifically-selected low-noise parts.

That leaves the BitFenix Colossus as the odd man out in today’s comparison, meaning that the two gaming cases in our roundup place first and last, while enclosures specifically intended to serve as quiet cases fill the middle. We thought the Colossus’ double panels would reduce noise and, after feeling them, we’re fairly certain that the drive door was at least partly effective in that regard. Unfortunately, the outer skin simply isn't thick enough to deaden the drone of our CPU and GPU fans. The Colossus might have finished best in show if this were a design showcase, but is otherwise best-placed in our upcoming eight-slot gaming case showdown.

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56 comments
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  • Tamz_msc
    i7 2600K at 34.5 GHz? o.O
    7
  • Anonymous
    the rv03 is out at less $$$ you guys should do a rv02-E vs rv03 round in the cooling side and thats because the rv03 has more fans
    4
  • dragonsqrrl
    Using a SilverStone Fortress Series FT02B-W here. Basically identical interior design, except in my opinion the exterior is more aesthetically pleasing. Glad to confirm the excellent cooling characteristics.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811163161&cm_re=ft02_b-_-11-163-161-_-Product

    Another big plus with the Fortress 2 is the inclusion of sound dampening foam on every panel, but to be entirely honest with you, due to the open nature of the case, I'm really not sure how much sound it's actually dampening.
    0
  • henryvalz
    34.5 Ghz...

    Hell, yes! About time, pushing those extreme overclocks!
    6
  • Gamer-girl
    I think there needs to be info on how much space there is for graphics cards.
    2
  • xmaswraith
    34.5 gigahertz? 34.5 gigahertz? Great Scott!

    Marty, I'm sorry. But the only power source capable of generating 34.5 gigahertz of electricity is a bolt of lightning... (begin back to the future theme song!)
    4
  • JOSHSKORN
    henryvalz34.5 Ghz...Hell, yes! About time, pushing those extreme overclocks!

    I bet they were overclocking from Pluto.
    2
  • killerclick
    JOSHSKORNI bet they were overclocking from Pluto.


    Didn't you watch the news? Astronomers sent a dwarf in a rocket to remove Pluto so it doesn't exist anymore.
    3
  • Luay
    RV-03 pushes more air and cools better than the 02, but it's also louder.
    0
  • madsbs
    Yet, as a gaming case, the Raven 2 Evolution may not fulfill the aesthetic or storage needs of some computing professionals
    0
  • madsbs
    "Yet, as a gaming case, the Raven 2 Evolution may not fulfill the aesthetic or storage needs of some computing professionals"

    This conclusion makes no sense. Why do "computing professional gamers" need storage.
    And further the case holds 5 HDDs. That's 1 SSD + 4x2TB of storage.
    2
  • srgess
    35.4ghz with silent operation ! Wondering if it can play crysis !
    0
  • Anonymous
    Sonata - top mounted PSU = no go, especially for semi passive ones.

    Fractal or Raven? This is harder one.
    0
  • VirtualMirage
    The specs on page one for the Fractal Design Define XL are wrong. The intake fan is 140mm, not 120mm. There is room for 2 140mm intake fans plus a 120mm intake fan. The specs list incorrectly shows it as one 120mm fan with an alternative for three 120mm fans.
    1
  • Petey1013
    madsbs"Yet, as a gaming case, the Raven 2 Evolution may not fulfill the aesthetic or storage needs of some computing professionals"This conclusion makes no sense. Why do "computing professional gamers" need storage. And further the case holds 5 HDDs. That's 1 SSD + 4x2TB of storage.



    You mean 5x2TB. It holds 5 HDDs and a SSD.

    Also, the FT02, although more expensive, should have been used due to the extra sound dampening material.
    0
  • randomstar
    Anyone remember the Silio case? is it still in production? Quiet, insulated, cools well.
    0
  • Anonymous
    This is unusual for Tom's...an inconclusive review on poorly chosen hardware.
    -2
  • verbalizer
    I do not particularly care for ANY of these cases, thanks anyways..
    -1
  • chesteracorgi
    I'd rate the Bitfinix, Lian Li and Silverstone for having the best aesthetics. Antec's design placing the PSU at the top is anachronistic: heating the top of the case. Silverstone's idiosyncratic design produces the best cooling at the price of more noise. None of these cases give me a second thought about going with the Corsair 600T.
    0
  • marraco
    I would love an article about how to "make it yourself".

    Do a case with good electromagnetic and noise insulation. With good cooling.

    What materials are better? Is electromagnetic insulation that important? (so, is necessary a conductive -metallic- case?)

    how do you solve the precise location of backward holes (for motherboard, and boards).

    how do you make the holes for different form factors (hint: there are standards)

    etc. there is a lot to talk. You can make a cheap case much better than the trademark garbage sold.
    2